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Ken Borland



John McFarland Column – What made the difference for the Lions? 0

Posted on April 21, 2017 by Ken

 

The Lions’ win over the Stormers in the weekend’s big game in Cape Town was a fantastic effort.

I predicted last week that whichever side defended better would win the game and that was the case. The key difference was the Lions defence dominated the collisions and were also able to force vital turnovers against the home side.

The Stormers’ defensive policy meant they stayed out of the rucks because the Lions have such width to their game; but that resulted in uncontested, free ball for the Lions and allowed them to build control of the game, and in defence Jaco Kriel and Malcolm Marx were vociferous over the loose ball.

If a team keeps more numbers on their feet in defence then they can build greater width in their defensive line and it is a tactic used by a lot of teams, mainly at wide rucks. With this you should be able to get greater line speed and come harder off the line because of the players on their feet. The Stormers have used this tactic since the Jacques Nienaber era, with the defence outnumbering the attack, and it requires great discipline for players to stay out of the ruck, and so your penalty count will be lower.

If you do defend that way, then you need line-speed and the Stormers didn’t really have that. You need to put pressure on the halfbacks because they are the decision-makers, cut down their space and options, and that was lacking. Elton Jantjies had his best game of the season.

This is completely different to the approach of a team like the Hurricanes, who put pressure on the ball and push the attack backwards, forcing turnovers, which is the hardest ball to defend against.

First prize in defence is to get good tackle contact, maybe a double-hit, and then get over and steal the ball, like Kriel does. The Stormers are lacking a specialist openside flank which means this form of defence suits them, but obviously they need to revisit their recruitment policy and develop or find an openside.

The Stormers were keen on making offloads, getting their hands above the tackle, which means you have to stay up in contact, leaving you vulnerable to the choke-tackle. The Lions were very effective at keeping square and hitting the carrier so that the offload opportunity was nullified or could only be made under extreme pressure. This also resulted in turnovers through the choke-tackle, just like Ireland used in the 2011 World Cup win over Australia.

The Stormers will be disappointed with the blindside try they allowed Sylvian Mahuza to score because the wing should always be up on the short side, Cheslin Kolbe was hanging back which gave space and Harold Vorster ran a wonderful line, through pillar three and four, who were watching the ruck and not him, allowing him to slice through.

It takes a special talent to see the hole in the defence and then to hit it, and Vorster shows how blessed South African rugby is in terms of backline depth. The two leading centres favoured by Allister Coetzee – Damian de Allende and Juan de Jongh – are both injured, so the performances of Vorster have been very encouraging.

The Cheetahs were really on fire for the first 30 minutes of their game against the Chiefs and some of the rugby they played, and the courage they showed to run from deep, was a joy to watch. It just shows that the decision to go with only four South African franchises is going to have the terrible consequence of a lot of people, fine rugby players, losing their livelihoods and jobs, or taking the road overseas.

Francois Venter was very influential with his reverse runs and clever lines, and the Cheetahs still use the strength of their maul well and that caused the Chiefs many problems. They run their exits off the restarts, they take you on first and then look for a short kick. They got good reward from chips during that opening period.

There probably should have been more yellow cards in the first half-hour because the Chiefs were really under the pump and they started to concede penalties rather than tries. They knew that even two penalties against one try was a good deal.

The deliberate conceding of penalties really stops the attacking momentum and after a penalty the offending side then gets territory because they kick deep from the restart! It certainly calls for captains to speak to the referees, the captain needs to put the right sort of pressure on the referee.

Some captains are better at this than others – eg one Richie McCaw! – but it’s a vital thing to get that influence. There are never a lot of yellow cards given because referees don’t want to have an overbearing influence on the game, but there’s normally at least one and it’s important teams find the right time to go to the referee by the captain.

For example, Jan Serfontein’s yellow card last weekend for the Bulls against the Sunwolves was for something not much different to what the Chiefs were doing. But the scoreline influences the decision. In that first half-hour in Bloemfontein, the high tackle when it was a one-on-one by Damian McKenzie was a prime example. He was at the last line of defence and such fouls raise the question of a penalty try.

The Chiefs knew they would score tries at the back end of the match and the Cheetahs’ conditioning was off so the game followed the traditional pattern of South African teams versus New Zealand sides and they ran out of steam in the last 20 minutes.

I was pleased to see the Bulls get back on track and to see CEO Barend van Graan so publicly back the coaching staff. The reward was a quite convincing win and the best result against the Jaguares by a South African team this season.

Congratulations too to all the schools who took part in Easter festivals in South Africa. These are a wonderful showpiece for the game and a very special part of our rugby itinerary. Long may these traditions continue, it’s just wonderful to see the number of games of such quality over the course of a day and that so many come out to support these festivals.

With SA Rugby’s plan for four Super Rugby sides and eight professional Currie Cup sides, you wonder where these highly promising young players are going to get opportunities to play. Obviously the Varsity Cup will be an entry point, hopefully these players will show patience and remain in South Africa.

 

John McFarland is the assistant coach of the Kubota Spears in Japan and was the Springbok defence coach from 2012 through to the 2015 World Cup, where they conceded the least line-breaks in the tournament and an average of just one try per game. Before that, McFarland won three SuperRugby titles (2007, 09, 10) with the Bulls and five Currie Cup crowns with the Blue Bulls. In all, he won 28 trophies during his 12 years at Loftus Versfeld.

 

 

Former Springboks defence coach John McFarland on what the Lions must do to win the SuperRugby final 0

Posted on August 03, 2016 by Ken

 

The Lions will want to just keep on doing exactly what they have been doing as they build up to the SuperRugby final against the Hurricanes in Wellington on Saturday.

We want to see the Lions play with the same verve, confidence and execution because that’s what’s in their DNA, it’s what they’ve been training all season.

The biggest thing when preparing for a final is to use up all the emotional energy. The size of the occasion is constantly on the players’ minds, the consequences of winning or losing. At the Bulls when we won our three titles we would have very short sessions in finals week and not introduce anything new. The guys must just release steam at training.

You might not use anything new anyway in the final and the first 20 minutes of the game are always very frenetic and you want to be doing the things you do well, you want to be confident that you can execute them.

It’s also important this week for the Lions guys to get away from rugby, go play tenpin bowling or something, you don’t want them sitting in their rooms thinking about the game.

Then, the night before the match we would have our jersey presentation but the players would do it themselves. Each one would give a short presentation of what the final means to them and make a pledge to the team. They were the guys who worked so hard to get there and those evenings always meant a lot to the players.

We’d then play a video summary of the season we’d gone through, with music and the tries of the season – Johan van Graan was always an expert at putting those together, they were magnificent!

And then you want just a normal game day before the final.

As far as the match itself is concerned, the Lions certainly have the game plan to give the Hurricanes problems, mainly because Elton Jantjies is executing those pinpoint attacking kicks so well. He set up two tries against the Highlanders in the semifinal through a chip and a crosskick, and that sort of kicking is one way to beat the Hurricanes’ rush defence.

But Hurricanes scrumhalf TJ Perenara is also a superb sweeper and the Lions will have to make sure their kicks bounce and back into their hands!

The Lions set-piece is also very strong and their scrum and lineout maul will both be huge factors and I think they’ll want to impose themselves on the game that way. The Hurricanes could be under big pressure in those departments.

The Lions played with a complete sense of freedom and no fear against the Highlanders. Most teams don’t have the guts to run the ball from behind their own goal-line but the Lions did it twice in the semifinal and made superb exits. But that was on a dry Highveld day and to reproduce that at a wet and windy Cake Tin will be challenging.

The challenge in finals is how to release pressure and the Lions have done that in their two playoff games by attacking from deep. They get the ball in the outer channels and then kick for space. But it might be a different kettle of fish in the Cake Tin.

Neither Elton nor Faf have particularly long kicks, but the Lions like to play before kicking so they’ll carry the ball for a phase or two and then kick for space and get the chase going.

But the Hurricanes’ defence really rushed the Lions from first phase in their match at Ellis Park, which caught them off-guard. They conceded a couple of intercepts because of that man-on-man pressure, but Swys de Bruin will definitely have come up with a plan for that.

The Lions defence is also very different to all the other South African teams. From a middle ruck, the second-last man – be it Faf de Klerk or Elton Jantjies – is almost in front of the line, closing down the space, he brings the whole line forward. It’s that line speed that caught the Highlanders unawares and they couldn’t get the ball to their wings. It’s a high-risk/high-reward tactic because most teams just shadow and move across in those situations, but the Lions put the opposition under pressure at those wide rucks.

If there’s one guy who brings inspiration to the Hurricanes, it’s loose forward Ardie Savea. He has special skills and a great work-rate, and he has the ability to crack a game wide open because he has such pace. I bet the Lions wish he had gone to the Olympics to play Sevens instead!

But the Lions have to make sure that they are very physical on him and fellow flank Brad Shields to set the tone. They need to keep them quiet and make sure they have to work hard on defence rather than on attack.

The Hurricanes are a bit like the Lions were up front in that they don’t have many Test forwards in their tight five, but they are all hard-working and carry well. Dane Coles will obviously be crucial if he plays because he provides them with physical aggression and obviously his throwing is at a different level.

The Tongan Bear, Loni Uhila, always takes quick taps as well, but sometimes it’s under the poles and it can take points away from the Hurricanes!

For the Lions, a guy like Franco Mostert has a very high work-rate and it would be great if Warren Whiteley can play in the final as well. He’s been a wonderful captain, he’s been through thick and thin with the Lions and it would be fitting for him to be there. He has such a high work-rate as well and between him, Jaco Kriel and Warwick Tecklenburg, they can make the tackles if the Hurricanes carry the ball at them.

The Lions A team haven’t played at sea level since April 23 against the Kings in Port Elizabeth, but I think the final will be very close and it will come down to a moment of brilliance, like Rohan Janse van Rensburg’s try in the semifinal after that turnover tackle by Elton Jantjies.

 

 

 

John McFarland is the assistant coach of the Kubota Spears in Japan and was the Springbok defence coach from 2012-15, having won three SuperRugby titles (2007, 09, 10) with the Bulls and five Currie Cup crowns with the Blue Bulls. In all, he won 28 trophies during his 12 years at Loftus Versfeld.

 

Pieter-Steph du Toit & Warren Whiteley Q&As 0

Posted on June 21, 2016 by Ken

 

Pieter-Steph du Toit

 

Q: How did it feel for the Springboks to be booed off the field at halftime?

PSdT: Well the first half was quite a shocker and being booed, well we fully deserved it. But we were 100% better in the second half and we showed what we can do. It’s difficult to describe the feeling when you get booed like that, but it made me a bit angry, I wanted to show that we are not that bad. If you play good rugby, then the crowd gets behind you.

 

Q: What went wrong in the first half?

PSdT: Us players were all on the field, but we just weren’t playing, we had no energy, we all just seemed a bit tired. I do not know why that happened in the first half, I have no explanation at the moment, except that our game plan was to work around the corner and we didn’t do that as the forwards.

 

Q: How did the Springboks manage to pull off such an amazing comeback?

PSdT: Eben Etzebeth and I spoke about it and we never doubted that we could win, and if you believe it then you can do it. There was a mindshift – we knew we had to win, so we had to lift our game to a different level and the changes helped too, a guy like Ruan Combrinck was man of the match after playing just 40 minutes, so that’s quite an effort. We stuck to the game plan more, the forwards came into the game and we cut out the mistakes. We made a lot of errors in the first half, we didn’t keep the ball, and Allister Coetzee and Adriaan Strauss spoke to us about that and said if this was our last Test for South Africa, how would we play? Of course they were upset.

 

 

Warren Whiteley

 

Q: How satisfying was that second-half comeback and how did you pull it off?

WW: We’re delighted with the win and the character we showed. We definitely felt the momentum swing early in the second half and that gave us a chance. We got quick ball and we were hitting the advantage line and so creating space out wide. We managed to keep that width, make holes in the middle and earn the right to go wide. It means a lot because we were extremely disappointed after the first half, but we showed our character in the second half, which is definitely going to be a massive confidence boost.

 

Q: Did you feel extra pressure coming on straight after halftime in front of your home crowd with the Springboks in a hole, and do you think you’ve secured a starting place now?

WW: Every time I step on to the field it’s a privilege and I try to make sure I use every opportunity. I didn’t feel any extra pressure, but I was highly motivated to make a difference. No, I don’t think I can talk about starting places because there are a lot of very talented loose forwards in the squad – Jaco Kriel hasn’t even played a game yet and there’s a guy like Sikhumbuzo Notshe also waiting in the wings.

 

Q: There’s been plenty of talk already about the win being down to all the members of the Lions team you captain who were on the field in the second half … is that why the Springboks won the game?

WW: There’s no way it was the Lions team who won the game, collectively we worked together on the game plan and the style of rugby we wanted to play. The first week together was tough, we did lots of work but lost, and this week was tough too. But slowly and surely we’re getting into our rhythm, we’re still reading and learning about each other. This was only my fifth Test, I’ve never had to link with Damian de Allende before, I’ve never scrummed behind Pieter-Steph du Toit before, so I’m still learning how to play with them.

 

Ford leads on his own, but local hopes still alive 0

Posted on October 28, 2015 by Ken

 

Englishman Matt Ford was able to make the Africa Open lead his own with a six-under-par 66 in the second round at East London Golf Club on Friday, but four South Africans made significant progress up the leaderboard to keep local hopes alive.

Ford is on 11-under-par at the midway stage, one stroke ahead of Spaniard Edoardo de la Riva, while Jaco van Zyl, who continues to make an impressive comeback from surgery on both knees last year, and Erik van Rooyen are leading the South African charge on eight-under-par, alongside Frenchman Gregory Havret.

The 36-year-old Ford started on the first tee at 7.05am when conditions were relatively calm compared to the blustery first day, and he was able to make four birdies on his first seven holes. His momentum was temporarily halted with a bogey on the ninth after he carted his tee-shot into the thick coastal bush, but he made up for that with a birdie on 10 and an eagle-two on the 12th hole.

“I played nicely today, I’m very happy. It’s been two good rounds and hopefully there are two to come. I gave myself plenty of opportunities and was inside 15 feet 11 times. I was just trying to hit good shots and take advantage of the slightly easier conditions,” Ford said.

Van Zyl’s knees are not only holding up well but, more importantly, his putter is too after he struggled last weekend at the Joburg Open, his final-round 66 including 33 shots with the short stick.

“I’m probably at about 70% of how well I can drive, but now I’m making the putts. I had 27 yesterday and 25 today. Yesterday was really tough though and I was very chuffed I managed to shoot two-under. It was a lot easier this morning, it was totally different today, a lot of the holes were into a little breeze but there were still quite a few holes to capitalise on,” Van Zyl said after his round that included five birdies, an eagle and just one bogey.

Former world top-10 golfer David Howell is still in contention on seven-under-par, alongside fellow Englishman John Parry, South Africans Neil Schietekat and Trevor Fisher Junior, Germany’s Maximilian Kieffer and Mark Tullo of Chile.

Van Rooyen started on the ninth hole and picked up two birdies on the back nine before bogeying the par-five first. But the 25-year-old who played college golf in the United States, then posted a band of birdies on his scorecard – five in the next six holes – to roar up the leaderboard.

Van Zyl and his fellow South African mates have a proud record to maintain in the Africa Open, with a foreigner not managing to win the title yet after seven editions of the tournament.

“I’ve got to take it one shot at a time and not get ahead of myself. But if I give myself as many opportunities as  I can to win, then it has to happen some time. But you’ve obviously got to play nicely and being in contention brings different pressures and expectations. But life will become a lot easier once I get a co-sanctioned win under the belt,” Van Zyl said.

 

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    1 Corinthians 3:3 - "For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way?"

    One of my favourite U2 songs is a collaboration with Johnny Cash called The Wanderer, and it features the line "they say they want the kingdom, but they don't want God in it".
    Many people say they believe in God, but they don't experience his loving presence. They may be active in Christian work, but only if they have their way. If they cannot be leaders, they refuse to be involved.
    Because they refuse to allow God to fill their lives with his love, they remain weak and powerless.
    Spiritual maturity means developing a greater love for others.

    "When the love of Christ saturates you, immature attitudes such as pettiness, jealousy and strife are dissolved.
    "It is only when you have an intimate relationship with the Lord that you receive sufficient grace to rise above this immaturity and enjoy the solid food that the Holy Spirit gives you." - Solly Ozrovech, A Shelter From The Storm



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